Sundance Film Festival: Oprah, Belafonte, and some indie gems in drama and documentary
Oprah launched her documentary film club and Belafonte carries on his social activism full tilt at the Sundance Film Festival, which was abuzz with talk about the digital future of film as much as the indie films themselves.
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The various experimenters, several of whom were at Sundance, testify in the film about what transpired, much of it not pretty. The film is focused oddly: Nim's staggering ability to actually convey feelings by signing is treated by Marsh almost as an afterthought. Everyone connected to Nim seems to have been profoundly changed by him, though. At the film's Q-and-A afterward, I half expected the key participants to channel the chimp.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Sundance Film Festival 2011
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And then there was Morgan Neville's memory-lane extravaganza, "Troubadours," which offers up a minihistory of the Los Angeles singer-songwriter scene from the '70s. James Taylor, David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, and many others croon and reminisce. Carole King, prominently featured in the film, gave a hush-hush concert in the basement of a club on Main Street, and she seemed ecstatically happy belting out her greatest hits on the piano as the densely packed audience waved their iPhones and swayed, trancelike.
Good-time feelings at Sundance come best from good movies. The dramatic features, those I saw at least, were the usual a mixed bag. I mostly liked "Margin Call," starring, among others, Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons, about 24 hours in the life of a tanking Manhattan investment firm. It's better than, say, "The Company Men," though not as good as "Up in the Air." This recession-era genre is now officially a mainstay.
The best dramatic film I saw at Sundance was easily "Like Crazy," and, because I saw it near the end of my run here, it had the inadvertent force of an epiphany. Co-written and directed by Drake Doremus, and starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones as long-distance lovers, it's exactly the kind of movie that Sundance, at its best, is known for – a sweet, small movie about what regular people are going through in their lives.
It has the same bittersweet lyricism as Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset," and it gave me renewed hope that, despite all the technotalk about high-definition multi-platform delivery systems and DVD sell-throughs, despite all the inane mumbling and navel-gazing that characterize so much of the indie world, good films can still break through by sheer force of talent.